Recently as part of coverage of the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival, Josh from JJames Reviews and Ruth from Flixchatter shared their top 10 Nicolas Cage roles and I couldn’t resist joining in. After all dear old Nic is one of those bizarre Hollywood institutions that is capable of a brilliant performance given the right opportunity but instead mostly squanders his “talent” on terrible, terrible action movies. Although in recent years he’s ended up being more of a figure of fun than a serious thesp, I have picked out some of the roles that I remember loving him in… some for all the wrong reasons. Here’s my top 10.
The role: Yuri Orlov, an arms dealer with conflicted morals
The film: Lord of War (2005)
Crazy eyes rating: Two spinning gun barrels out of ten.
Respectability rating: 7/10
“Yuri Orlov: Of all the weapons in the vast soviet arsenal, nothing was more profitable than Avtomat Kalashnikova model of 1947. More commonly known as the AK-47, or Kalashnikov. It’s the world’s most popular assault rifle. A weapon all fighters love. An elegantly simple 9 pound amalgamation of forged steel and plywood. It doesn’t break, jam, or overheat. It’ll shoot whether it’s covered in mud or filled with sand. It’s so easy, even a child can use it; and they do. The Soviets put the gun on a coin. Mozambique put it on their flag. Since the end of the Cold War, the Kalashnikov has become the Russian people’s greatest export. After that comes vodka, caviar, and suicidal novelists. One thing is for sure, no one was lining up to buy their cars.“
The role: Terence McDonagh, a cop with a penchant for drugs, loose women and gambling
The Film: The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans (2009)
Crazy eyes rating: Eight buzzing quaaludes out of ten
Respectability rating: 5/10
“Terence McDonagh: Everything I take is prescription – except for the heroin.”
The role: Seth, an angel who chooses to leave heaven after he falls in love with a doctor
The Film: City of Angels (1998)
Crazy eyes rating: One pearly pear out of ten
Respectability rating: 5/10
“Seth: I would rather have had one breath of her hair, one kiss of her mouth, one touch of her hand, than eternity without it. One.”
The role: Sailor Ripley, a jailbird in love
The film: Wild at Heart (1990)
Crazy eyes rating: Eight glowing fag ends out of ten
Respectability rating: 6/10… depending on how you feel about David Lymch
“Sailor: Man, I had a boner with a capital “O”.“
The role: Ronny Cammareri, a rough but passionate bakery oven attendant with a missing hand
The film: Moonstruck (1987)
Crazy eyes rating: Five glazed rolls out of ten
Respectability rating: 8/10
“Ronny Cammareri: Everything seems like nothing to me now, ’cause I want you in my bed. I don’t care if I burn in hell. I don’t care if you burn in hell. The past and the future is a joke to me now. I see that they’re nothing. I see they ain’t here. The only thing that’s here is you – and me.”
The role: H.I. McDunnough, an ex-con who desperately wants to be a dad
The film: Raising Arizona (1987)
Crazy eyes rating: Seven fizzing pineapples out of 10
Respectability rating: 9/10
“H.I.: That night, I had a dream. I drifted off thinking about happiness, birth and new life, But now I was haunted by a vision of… He was horrible. The lone biker of apocalypse. A man with all the powers of Hell at his command. He could turn turn the day into night and lay to waste everything in his path. He was especially hard on little things-the helpless and the gentle creatures. He left a scorched earth in his wake befouling even the sweet desert breeze that whipped across his brow. I didn’t know where he came from or why. I didn’t know if he was dream or vision. But I feared that I myself had unleashed him. For he was the fury that would be as soon as Florence Arizona found her little Nathan gone.“
The role: Jack Campbell, a selfish businessman who finds out what his life would have been like if he married the one that got away
The film: The Family Man (2000)
Crazy eyes rating: One baby sock out of ten
Respectability rating: 1/10 – I really should not like this movie
“Jack: We have a house in Jersey. We have two kids, Annie and Josh. Annie’s not much of a violin player, but she tries real hard. She’s a little precocious, but that’s only because she says what’s on her mind. And when she smiles… And Josh, he has your eyes. He doesn’t say much, but we know he’s smart. He’s always got his eyes open, he’s always watching us. Sometimes you can look at him and you just know he’s learning something new. It’s like witnessing a miracle. The house is a mess but it’s ours. After 122 more payments, it’s going to be ours. And you, you’re a non-profit lawyer. That’s right, you’re completely non-profit, but that doesn’t seem to bother you. And we’re in love. After 13 years of marriage we’re still unbelievably in love. You won’t even let me touch you until I’ve said it. I sing to you. Not all the time, but definitely on special occasions. We’ve dealt with our share of surprises and made a lot of sacrifices but we’ve stayed together. You see, you’re a better person than I am. And it made me a better person to be around you. I don’t know, maybe it was just all a dream. Maybe I went to bed one lonely night in December and I imagined it all. But I swear, nothing has ever felt more real. And if you get on that plane right now, it’ll disappear forever. I know we could both go on with our lives and we’d both be fine, but I’ve seen what we could be like together. And I choose us.“
The role: Castor Troy / Sean Archer, a cop who switches identities with a master criminal
The film: Face/Off (1997)
Crazy eyes rating: Nine spinning peaches out of ten
Respectability rating: 4/10
“Castor Troy: I AM Castor Troy!”
The role: Damon Macready/Big Daddy, father/super hero
The film: Kick-Ass (2010)
Crazy eyes rating: Ten 44 caliber bullets out of ten
Respectability rating: 9/10
“Damon Macready: So… Have you thought a little more about what you might want for your birthday?
Mindy Macready: Can I get a puppy?
Damon Macready: [surprised] You wanna get a dog?
Mindy Macready: Yeah, a cuddly fluffy one, and a Bratz movie-star make over Sasha!
[Damon is stunned]
Mindy Macready: [laughs] I’m just fucking with you Daddy! Look, I’d love a Benchmade model 42 butterfly knife.
Damon Macready: [relieved] Oh, child… You always knock me for a loop!”
The role: Ben Sanderson, an alcoholic screenwriter who arrives in Vegas with the intention of drinking himself to death
The film: Leaving Las Vegas (1995)
Crazy eyes rating: Three swiveling gimlets out of ten
Respectability rating: 10/10
“Ben Sanderson: We both know that I’m a drunk. And I know you are a hooker. I hope you understand that I am a person who is totally at ease with that. Which is not to say that I’m indifferent or I don’t care, I do. It simple means that I trust and accept your judgment.”